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Cass health service fees increased

WALKER — Cass County Board Tuesday set several county health service fees for 2013, with many rising, based on comparisons with other counties’ rates and on Cass’s costs to provide the services.

While seasonal flu shots will remain at $25 each, the fee for other immunizations will rise from $3 to $5. Mantoux tests will increase from $17 to $20. Foot care services will rise from $20 to $25. Blood tests for lead will rise from $10 to $17. Dental varnishing will remain at $14.

Jamie Richter, public health nursing director, obtained board approval to participate in a $220,500 grant program to expand services the county offers to pregnant women and mothers of infants to help them improve their parenting skills.

The board authorized her to hire a community health specialist nurse to run the program. Richter told the board she will analyze costs and payments the county receives for providing the service to see whether the program can continue after the grant period.

She said Cass currently offers a couple of home visits for expectant mother and a couple visits after the baby is born, but the grant program will have a nurse making those visits and the number of visits will increase to cover the baby’s first two and a half years.

She said studies done in other parts of the country show mothers are much more successful when a nurse visits them.

The goal will be to prevent child abuse and neglect, prevent emergency room visits for accidents and poisoning, reduce arrests in children by the time they reach age 15, prevent behavior and intellectual programs by age six and have fewer convictions of mothers of children age 15.

These problems have been reduced by 48 to 72 percent in other parts of the country when a nurse has provided home visits to first-time mothers to help them start raising their children safely and successfully, Richter said.

She expects the grant to fund services for 15 families here.

Renee Lukkason, county team leader, reported to the board Cass had only seven of the 3,558 cases of pertussis (whooping cough) the state experienced this year, but she emphasized the importance of getting the booster shots for pertussis by age 10 and for people of any age who have not had that immunization.

Reno Wells, health, human and veterans services (HHVS) director, explained that, while people used to believe they had lifetime immunity if they had had whooping cough as a child, experience now is proving that is not true.

Richter and Lukkason emphasized the importance of getting the shot, especially for those who will be in contact with infants under age one who are too young to be immunized. This includes grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles.

Since a pertussis vaccine that was considered safer was introduced in the 1990’s to replace a 1940’s version, it has been learned the effective time frame for the newer vaccine is shorter, leading to the recommendation for boosters at age 10, age 18 and again in adulthood.

Lukkason reported seasonal flu shots are now available at area clinics and in clinics the county offers. Two new strains of the respiratory flu virus are included in this year’s shot. Flu season runs from October through April.

Wells obtained board approval to hire an office support specialist to work in the HHVS office at the land department building in Backus.

He reported the county’s veterans benefits specialist, Dan McMahon, has been called back to active duty. Wells said McMahon declined to have the county hold the position open until his return. Wells said he will recommend to the board within the next month whether to continue having a veterans benefit specialist or instead to hire a second veterans services officer.

Cass spent 52.26 percent of the HHVS budget after 66.67 percent of the year or $13,614,939. Part of that savings comes from the fact the county has spent only 39 percent of the budgeted amount for out of home child placements so far this year.